Project ¡VAMOS! Let’s Go Real!

¡VAMOS! equipment on trial at Lee Moor, Devon, UK.

One month ago, we concluded the ¡VAMOS! project with a presentation at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels1. A relieving event after an amazing project. It all started long, long ago, when several people from the early partners came together and their creative minds forged a brilliant concept: let’s apply the experience from the off-shore mining machines to submerged inland mines, to retrieve minerals, which currently are not profitable to exploit2.

There were three major questions in the project:

  1. What will the production rates be in relation to the minerals that can be expected?
  2. How do we find out, where the valuable mineral is in a submerged environment?
  3. Is the alternative system indeed as easy to handle and environmentally safe as envisioned?

All these issues have been addressed in various work packages. As this was not a desk study or a lab experiment, we needed real hardware to test in field trials. A mining vehicle, a hybrid ROV and a barge to launch the others. The engineering and building was interesting in itself, but the real test was in the two field trials. All the equipment and the people had to perform there. And after all these years since I helped writing the project proposal, it worked! I love it when a plan comes together!

All three research questions can be answered positive. We know how to handle such a system and the hardware required. It will definitely look different than the test vehicle. Here we optimized the engineering for the test, not for production or operation. But we definitely know how to configure the components in a viable operating system. The cutting system was tested to the limits, and production rates estimated. This machine was too light as a production model, but the cutting technology will be able to handle the hardest mineral, as long as weight and power can be applied. As there is no direct vision under water, we developed a data fusion system, where measurements from video, laser, sonar and GPS where the environment was presented in meticulous detail and the vehicle completely modelled in geometry, position and movement. At the pit floor, we were literally driving in virtual reality. The machine created some turbidity, deteriorating vision, but it happened to be less persistent than initially thought. The influence from precipitation runoff into the pit caused more turbidity. All together, we also prepared several business cases for this system against a conventional solution and there are certainly opportunities for a ¡VAMOS! solution.

Results from ¡VAMOS! (a) Cutting tests (b) Virtual vision (c) Equipment handling (d) Viability example (Credit: ¡VAMOS!).

The EU was also very interested whether clients were lining up for the real product. However, investments in the mining industry are slow, long term projects. Our main objective was to find out the operational parameters and present this as a viable alternative to conventional system. And that is what we’ve achieved. And the technology has matured enough, that when there is an opportunity for such a requirement, we are confident, that the tested components can be scaled to production size and readily applied. As a research project, we are finished. At each partner, we will still be working on the test results and improving our technology further. For the interested customer: we are ready to offer a production model. ¡VAMOS!: let’s go for real!

A happy team after concluding the ¡VAMOS! project.

References

  1. The outcomes and the future of the ¡VAMOS! project, ¡VAMOS!
  2. Developments in Mining Equipment and Pumps for Subsea and Inland Submerged Deposits, WODCON 2013

See also

Discussion at LinkedIn post

Exhibition ‘Sand On The Move’ At The National Dredging Museum

Flyer for the exhibition ‘Sand on the move’ (Credit: National Dredging Museum).

As we’ve seen in my last post, sand is one of the commodities most in demand1. Here in the Netherlands, there is a whole industry built on the extraction and distribution of sand. One of the most used extraction methods is dredging, something we’re well acquainted with. One of the most used distribution methods is barge transport. And the National Dredging Museum has opened an exhibition on these complementary trades: ‘Sand on the Move’2.
Last Thursday was the opening of this new exhibition of the museum. For the occasion, there were two speakers invited. Kees van der Veeken, director Consortium Grensmaas showed us the current practice of sand mining. Tjeerd Roozendaal, head engineer – program director projects and maintenance of Rijkswaterstaat had the honour to open the exhibition. Afterwards, there was a dinner buffet available for the guests. An excellent opportunity to learn, hear opinions and build on your (dredging) network.

Panoramic view of the ‘Sand on the move’ exhibition.

Our modern infrastructure was only made possible by the application use of sand as foundation of roads and fill material in concrete and tarmac. At the exhibition, there are displays of four big projects about sand mining: ‘Betuweroute’3, ‘Kraaijnbergse Plassen’4, ‘IJsseloog’5 and ‘Grensmaas’6. Each highlighting a certain aspect of sand mining in the Netherlands.
Another part of the exhibition revolves around the distribution of sand. And this posed a chicken and egg problem: in order to build roads, you need roads to transport the sand. So, in the early days, before there were roads, sand was being delivered over water by barge. There was a short period, where numerous small enterprises, mostly family owned, filled the gap of transporting sand by barge, taking the place of delivery trucks. Also my family had a motor vessel for sand transportation, ‘Excelsior’. And my grandfather told me many times of his adventures on board and his relative happy times. As this was hard work for sure.

Motor sand barge ‘Excelsior’ (Credit: Co Winkelman).

Along with old photographs of those sand barges, there are also many models and a video exhibit. Each conveying respect to these men, women and sometimes children, that have been toiling to build the roads and railways that we are now taking for granted in our luxurious times.
Unfortunately, these businesses worked to their own demise. As roads and railways improved, there was less need to transport the sand by barge, but directly hauled to the location where it was needed by road. So, somewhere this typical business dried up. Nowadays, sand is still transported by barges, but they are usually owned by large companies, that own the whole product line from extraction, distribution to application.
There is also a small sand laboratory to experience yourself, how many different aspects of sand are involved in selecting the right sand for the right application. At a small scale and easy to understand steps, this represents how we are evaluating sand in our own laboratory. Next to this laboratory, there are many more kid friendly exhibits in the rest of the museum. I can highly recommend you to plan a visit to the national dredging museum these weekends or during the Christmas holiday.

Mini sand laboratory (Credit: National Dredging museum).

References

  1. The World in a Grain, Amazon
  2. Sand on the Move, National Dredging Museum
  3. Betuweroute, Wikipedia
  4. Kraaijenbergse Plassen, Wikipedia (NL)
  5. IJsseloog, Wikipedia
  6. Grensmaas, Wikipedia (NL)

See also

Graduation Gijs Ter Meulen: Drag Analysis And Model For Forces And Production

Gijs proudly presenting his MSc. certificate.

We have another bright new MSc. engineer in dredging technology1: Gijs ter Meulen. Tuesday, he presented and defended his thesis on the forces and production of a trailing suction head. For this thesis project he was working at our research and development department at Damen Dredging Equipment2.

Trailing suction hopper dredges have become the tool of the trade for modern dredging contractors. They are versatile, flexible and able to transport sand over great distances. They load their cargo in their holds, by sucking up the sediment from the sea bottom with a big trailing suction head. This head looks like an out of size vacuum cleaner head.

Typical drag head on a railing suction hopper dredge.

Usually, it is very difficult to comprehend what is going on in and around the drag head. There is some laboratory research done, but not all results are freely available. Other knowledge is solely based on the experience of well-seasoned dredge masters. I do have respect for the experience of dredge masters, but their stories are hardly usable for an academic model description. So, Gijs took on the challenge to piece together a model, that satisfies our curiosity and fits with the experiences.

Concise development of the drag head model by Gijs ter Meulen.

For this project, he identified several steps, which we briefly touch upon here:

  1. The processes and forces around the drag head3 were all investigated on their cause and effect.
  2. A model was set up, where each process and their interaction with the others were identified.
  3. One main process in the drag head is the jetting production. A powerful jet of water is injected into the soil and this erodes part of the sediment under the drag head4.
  4. Another main process is the cutting production5. What is not eroded away by the jets, is removed by the teeth at the back of the visor.
  5. As the contribution of the processes to the forces and the production is known, the total performance can be calculated.

Along the way, this gave us very useful insight in the capabilities of the drag head and the trailing system, all the way to the requirements for the propulsion. Now, we will be able to continue to improve our drag heads even further. Any other students who would like to participate in that project are welcome to contact us5.

Gijs takes a new step in his career path. He is going to work for a well esteemed customer of us, so we will see him around in the dredging industry. Thanks Gijs, bon voyage!

Gijs, good luck with your future career in dredging.

References

  1. MSc Offshore & Dredging Engineering, TU Delft
  2. Innovation, Damen Dredging Equipment
  3. Designing Dredging Equipment [OE4671], Vlasblom
  4. Sand erosion with a traversing circular jet, Robert Weegenaar
  5. The Cutting of Sand, Dredging Engineering
  6. Internships, Damen Dredging Equipment

See also